Penny Century (1997) #7

Penny Century 7

Part of me wants to know how creator Jaime Hernandez came up with Penny Century’s arc. The series began with the return of Ray Dominguez, revealing he had a previously unrevealed history with Penny Century, going halfway through Love and Rockets: Volume One. Throughout the series, which mainly dealt with the death of H.R. Costigan, Jaime kept threatening to reunite Ray with Maggie.

Only then Ray disappeared, and Jaime revealed Maggie’s been married and is now getting a divorce. Over the next issue or two, Jaime turned that surprise reveal into a plot point, as one character or another was surprised Maggie had been married at all.

This issue has a single story—Maggie and now ex-husband Tony’s divorce party, which Hopey’s throwing at the bar where she works. Hopey’s hanging out with Maggie Christmas (the first cameo of many), who wants to know the story of Maggie and Tony’s marriage since no one knew she was married. And no one can figure out why Hopey’s so okay with it.

Maybe because it turns out Hopey’s had a girlfriend for Penny Century too. Rosie. Jaime introduced Rosie a couple issues ago; she and Hopey went over to Maggie’s to comfort her after finding out about the divorce. Rosie just seemed like a mutual friend in the supporting cast. Nope, she’s Hopey’s girl. At least enough of one, she gets jealous of Hopey.

There are some other big questions (and also not because it’s Maggie and Hopey), like them hooking up a few issues ago before the divorce and marriage reveals. And then there’s how any of it fits into Love and Rockets: Volume One. Maggie met husband-to-be, Tony, way back when, before Love and Rockets #1. The issue’s got a bunch of background music with citations, and based on the earliest flashback, they met in the late seventies (back before Maggie cut her hair—for Rockets #1). I promised myself I wasn’t going to do all the googling. Just the one song. No God by the Germs.

Anyway.

Hopey tells the story of Maggie having a punk rock meet-cute with Tony. Maggie and Hopey lived in Hoppers, Tony in L.A. They’d see each other at concerts and parties. Tony mad crushed on Maggie, Maggie at least liked him, but much of the flashback is his perspective. I just now realized it doesn’t work with Hopey playing narrator, but it also doesn’t matter. Tony’s very sympathetic from go.

Eventually, their romance peters out, and Maggie goes off to have her adventures as a mechanic and so on.

Oh, I forgot—Terry’s also in one of the flashbacks. Another cameo. Daffy’s the third, closer to the present, because Jaime finally reveals something about what happens immediately after Love and Rockets: Volume One ends. Maggie and Hopey are living in L.A., and Maggie’s been in a funk for three months. So Hopey drags her to a pool party, introducing her to Norma and Negra (who don’t exactly count as cameos). But there, Maggie sees Tony again, and they almost immediately get horizontal.

Maggie’s worried Hopey’s not going to be okay with it, but Hopey’s fine (and already shagging if not dating Rosie). Daffy’s cameo is telling Hopey about the wedding.

The story’s a rush of retcon reveals, but Jaime keeps it very tight, getting everything in place for this touching finish with Hopey and Tony. Penny shows up for an epilogue, setting Maggie up for the next chapter in her life, even though this last chapter happened almost entirely off-page.

There’s a color one-pager on the back cover; it’s a quick, surprisingly emotive “Space Queen,” which fits the main story.

Jaime uses thinner lines than usual with a lot of the art. It doesn’t feel as inky as it could. Though he’s also doing a bunch of panels. Most of the pages have eight panels; if they don’t, it’s six. And he’s covering days, weeks, and decades between panels sometimes. It’s a vast but meticulously constrained story. It’s exquisite and probably the most ambitious character development move Jaime’s ever made for both Maggie and Hopey.

There’s also the implication Maggie reading a Beto comic–Beto Mess—causes an emotional breakdown directly resulting in the marriage.

The story’s not the comic’s biggest surprise. Jaime’s had so many of them. But it definitely showcases his ability to work the surprise throughout, not just stunt reveal it. It’s also really fun to see him age the characters all in one story, how he maintains the energy (and humor) regardless of era.

I’m already missing this comic.

Leave a Reply